Oregon‘s basketball team might have finally arrived with their tremendous effort in beating the number four team in the country, Arizona, on Thursday. They did it with great outside shooting; but more impressively they did it by stifling a talented offensive team with a mixture of man and 2-3 zone on defense. From the start Arizona quickly jumped out to an 11-0 lead, but from that point on Oregon outscored and out defended the Wildcats 41-19 in the first half, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
This type of shutdown defense has been a recurring theme throughout the season. So far, the Ducks have held five opponents under 50 points. This is the most since the 1982-83 team who held their opponents to under 50 points seven times. This defensive dominance is even more evident when looking at other statistics. Oregon, who had ten steals on Thursday night, currently leads the PAC 12 with 9.8 steals per game. Additionally, they lead the PAC 12 in rebounds per game with 40.3, making it hard for their opponents to get any second chances on offense.
Tough defense translates to easy offense. Making steals allows for easy transition baskets while their top tier rebounding ends any offensive threat and is conducive to an up-tempo game the Ducks like to run. This is the type of formula Dana Altman and his team have relied on, and succeeded on, all season. If the Ducks want to continue with their success this year and go deep into the tournament in March, they’ll have to defend well and convert those easy transition baskets.
If they do, watch out — these Ducks could make some noise.